FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Husbands, Love Your Wives (Here’s How)

with | February 18, 2022
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Husbands, wondering how to really love your wives? On FamilyLife Today, hosts Dave and Ann Wilson share what women need and how to go to the next level!

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Husbands, wondering how to really love your wives? On FamilyLife Today, hosts Dave and Ann Wilson share what women need and how to go to the next level!

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Husbands, Love Your Wives (Here’s How)

February 18, 2022
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Dave: So today is man’s day on FamilyLife Today.

Ann: What does that mean?

Dave: Well, I mean it’s not really a man’s day—it’s for men, but it’s really for women;—

Ann: Oh!

Dave: —because it’s like, “Let’s talk about how to really, really love our wives well.”

Ann: Oh, it is women’s day today!

Dave: It is; in some sense, if men do this, women benefit/the wife benefits.

Ann: Yes, your whole life will benefit, men.


Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: I’ve been told, many times, by Ann I don’t do this well. So Ann is going to tell you—

Ann: That’s terrible! [Laughter]

Dave: —how to love your wife. Well, we said earlier—you honestly said that—I did not do a good job of loving you well/cherishing you. We talked yesterday about cherish—

Ann: I didn’t feel loved. I think you—

Dave: Well, that means I didn’t do a good job!

Ann: —you tried your best, but I didn’t feel loved; because I felt like a lot of other things were your priority before our relationship.

Dave: Yes; we talked yesterday about Ephesians 5 saying, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” And we even tried to say, “Love has lost its meaning; so let’s use the word, ‘cherish,’ because men know how to cherish stuff.” Here is the definition again: to cherish something is to care for it deeply, to treasure it, to hold dear.

You basically were saying I held dear/I treasured my job more than you.

Ann: And when we would have these discussions, I would tell you that; and you would get so angry. You would say to me, “That is not true! My job is not the priority. You are the priority.” Then we would just go around in circles, and this was our continual battle. I would say, “This is what I am feeling”; and you would say, “You’re wrong.”

Dave: That was always a good discussion. [Laughter] I mean/I think—as I think back to it—and I’m not saying we never have this conversation anymore; it is still a struggle in every marriage—in our marriage, in current days—but this was 30 years ago, and then 20 years, and then 10 years ago—I mean, let me ask you, “Is it better?”

Ann: It’s way better.

Dave: Again, I don’t know exactly what was going through my mind when I would get defensive; but I think I got defensive because I was hurt. I thought I was doing a good job; I was making an effort. I would have told my buddies, “Yes, Ann—man, she feels loved by me—because I’m doing a good job of loving her”; and then I come home, and you’d say, “You don’t love me.”

Ann: We were in the crazy cycle as Emerson Eggerichs calls it, because I felt like you weren’t loving to me; so then I would get hurt, and I would disrespect you. When you felt disrespect, you were less loving. We were in that continual cycle, and we didn’t know how to get out.

Dave: All I know is it took years for me to receive your truth, which was you didn’t feel loved.

Ann: How did you stop getting defensive?

Dave: I think God softened my heart. I mean, we go back to what we said yesterday about Ephesians 5: “Husbands, love your wives,” comes out of the context of this is only possible if you are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit of God. I think the Holy Spirit does work and says, “Soften your heart; listen.”

Ann: I remember the first time I had said, “Man, I feel like we are not connecting. I am feeling like other things are more important,”—I’ll never forget the time you said, “Tell me more; what do you mean by that?”—I was shocked; because if I would have said that in the past, we would have just gone through our cycle again. But this time, just by you asking me that question, I felt incredibly loved.

Dave: Yes, and I think defensiveness in a marriage is one of the worst things that can happen. I mean, here is the thing—

Ann: We both do it.

Dave: —we all have blind spots; we all have things we can’t see. In some ways, God gives us a spouse as eyes

Ann: Ah, it’s terrible.

Dave: —to see things that we can’t see in ourselves. We hate it when our spouse points that out; but think about this: if one of the purposes of life is to become like Christ—which is honestly true from the Bible; we are called to become like Christ—but we won’t be exactly like Christ until we are in glory; Tim Keller calls it in, The Meaning of Marriage, “when we are in our glory selves.” So every day, as we move toward the end of our life, is a chance to be sharpened, and molded, and shaped into being like Christ. Guess who God gives us to help us do that?

Ann: Our spouse.

Dave: Our spouse. It’s sometimes really hard; but it’s a gift when your spouse can look at you and speak truth—and hopefully, that is said gently,—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —and lovingly, but truthfully—“This is what is going on in our marriage.”

I would say to the guys: “Man, yesterday, your homework was: ask your wife: ‘Do you feel loved?’ If she said, ‘No,’ I hope you didn’t get defensive like I always did. That is a chance for you to go: ‘Really? Help me understand why not,’ and ‘How do I make you feel loved?’” And today, we are going to tell you!

Ann: Let’s do it! Let’s get into it!

Dave: How do I make you feel loved? I mean we say it in our Vertical Marriage® small group and book; we said, “Here are four ways to love your wife.”

  • Give her time; we talked about that yesterday.
  • Taaalk—with three “A”s in the middle—because they want to have a conversation.
  • We said, “Touch.” Many guys are like, “Finally, we’re going to talk about touch.” Well, we’re talking about non-sexual touch.
  • Then, finally, the last one was truth; in other words, she is longing for a spiritual partner in the marriage.

Even in Ephesians 5 that we read yesterday—it is something that I never understood in verse 26—he says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her”—that is 25—but 26: “that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the water of the Word so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she may be holy and without blemish.” I never really understood that.

Ann: Yes, what does that mean?

Dave: I think, again, there are a lot of interpretations on that. But I think there is a part a husband is called [to] by God to help lead his wife, spiritually, to bring a spiritual dynamic to the relationship to bring her life, through Christ, that she would be holy and without blemish. She would be her best version of herself because of the man she married and that he is bringing Christ continually. I’m not saying I do this perfectly.

Ann: In a beautiful, humble serving way, that is so Christ-like, it draws us, as women, to our husbands when they live like that, as the servant-leaders.

Dave: You’ve already said that makes you feel loved, when I do that.

Ann: Yes; and secure, like, “Man, my man is walking with God. I can trust him; I respect him; I want to walk with him. And I know that he is serving Jesus, and his life matches his words.”

Dave: It’s really interesting—what we’re going to try to do today—and I don’t know if we’ll have time to do it—is talk about three ways that you can love your wife. Again, you have to ask her if these are true for her; but we read a book, years ago, called His Needs, Her Needs—subtitle—Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard Harley.

Ann: When I read that, I thought, “Oh, if I do all of these things right, it will guarantee that my spouse will never cheat”; we’re not saying that. You can do all things right—it may not be about you—but we can do our best.

Dave: And so, what he did in there was he just listed what he said, as a counselor after 3,000 couples: “Top five needs of a woman,” “Top five needs of a man.” There is a chapter on each one. Long story short, before I had even read the book—and we said this in Vertical Marriage—but before I had even read the book, I was like looking at: “What does he say are the top five for a man?” The first one was—he didn’t say respect—he said sex; you know, intimacy for a man—I’m like, “I like this guy; I can relate to this guy.”

But then I looked at the top five for women, and sex wasn’t even mentioned. You remember; I brought the book to you—

Ann: Physical intimacy wasn’t even the top five—

Dave: —for a woman.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I was like, “How can it not be in the top five?”; I show it to you. Again, we hadn’t read it yet. You looked at it—just the chapter title—you said, “Oh, the first three are intimacy to a woman.” I was like, “What in the world is that?!”

Okay, guys, write these down; or log them away in your mind; and then go to your wife and say, “Is this true for you?” Here is what Harley said the top three are—and we’re going to talk about this—he said: “Number one, affection; number two, conversation; number three, honesty and openness.”

Let me tell you—you don’t need to know what four and five are—because if you get the first three right, it doesn’t matter what four and five are. As I read that, I’m like, “Okay, help me,”—and Ann, you get to do this for the guys today—“Help us understand what affection is if that is the number one.” And by the way, do you think that is number one?

Ann: I think it is different for every woman. And I think—I’m sorry guys—it’s also different in every phase of our lives. In some ways, it can feel different; like my needs when I have little kids might be different than now as an empty-nester.

But the number one is affection, and I would say that is true for me. The way I would word this is: “Keep pursuing us.” That pursuit makes us feel like: “Oh, we still matter. We’re still important.” When you put affection with that, it just means you are pursuing us in a loving way.

Dave: And affection is—

Ann: It is going out of your way to show her that you love her by calling her, texting her, holding her hand, opening the door if she likes that.

Dave: So you’re saying affection is bigger than touch. Because when I hear “affection,” I think, “Touch her, hold her hand, kiss her, put your arm around her.”

Ann: To me, it is all about pursuit and like noticing. If you sit across from me at a table, and you look me in the eyes; and you’ll just be like, “Hey, how are you doing?” I’m like, “Oh my goodness! This man loves me.”

Dave: You are acting like I never do that. [Laughter] The way you said that is like, “Oh my goodness!”—like it’s once in a year or month.

Ann: I’m just saying that that affection to a woman—and I would say that it is non-sexual touch—and I think when I told you that, you were very confused by the word, like, “What does that even mean?”

Dave: I mean, it is good for a man to understand—and even for me to understand—affection is bigger than non-sexual touch, or just affection isn’t just physical touch.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: You’ve said to me, many times, when we are on a date, or we’re even in the kitchen—anywhere—“Just put the phone away.

Ann: “Pursue me; look at me.”

Dave: “Take it off your knee,” “Don’t look at the phone; turn it off,”—I would never have said that is affection.

Ann: It feels like you are continually pursuing, and that affection is just a part of it. I remember being married for a few years, thinking, “Wow; we hardly ever hold hands anymore. We hardly ever kiss affectionately anymore unless we’re in the bedroom for a purpose.” I remember thinking, “I really, really miss that,” because it’s wooing you; you know, it’s wooing me.

Dave: I don’t know what the percentage would be; but I would guess a good percentage of marriages don’t have a lot of affection anymore.

Ann: It is understandable why we don’t. We’re busy; we have kids; we have stressful jobs; we’re struggling with our parents, who are aging. There are so many dynamics going on that are pulling us away from one another, so we have to purposely pursue one another and God.

Dave: I would just say, “Guys, if this is your marriage,”—which it was my marriage—“it is on us to love our wives as Christ loves the church,” which means I am going to put aside my needs, and even my wants and desires, and say, “What would it look like for her to feel loved by me?” If it means hugging her, holding her hand—

Ann: I am just thinking, like, “Guys, if you put into your phone”—like put it as a reminder—“’Come in the door; hug my wife; say, “Thanks for all you’re doing for me,”’”—I mean, that gets into the next one—“But just to hug her, to look at her and say, ‘I appreciate you so much. Thanks for all you do for us.’”

Dave: I know—and some of—

Ann: She melts on the floor, guys—I’m just telling you—“Oh, thank you!”

Dave: Here is what I want to ask, though. When you have little kids crawling around the kitchen, and grabbing your legs,—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —and it’s chaos—I mean, we were over at our son’s house; there are toys everywhere. There is not an inch you can walk through the living room, and we’ve been there—you know?—when we had little kids. It’s hard to be affectionate—

Ann: Oh, absolutely.

Dave: —in that world.

Ann: And I was bad, where I’m like, “Don’t hug me; let’s just get some stuff done with the kids.” That was bad on my part, too; because for our kids to see, just for a time a night, for us to hug each other and say: “Man, you really matter,” “Our marriage matters,” “Kids, this matters; this is important. Your mom is really important, and she is amazing.” That would do amazing things for your kids as well.

Dave: So you’re saying you could do it, even in the midst of all the chaos.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: It’s like, “Hit the pause button and stop for a minute.”

Ann: But I think we have to be really purposeful. Put it in your phone: “Don’t forget. Hug my wife tonight, and tell her she is amazing at some point.”

Dave:and go out on a date night.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Alright. Second one—first one was affection—the second one is conversation. How does that make a woman feel loved and cherished?

Ann: I’m different from a lot of women. I feel like you are more detailed, and you will tell me all about your day; you’ll tell me conversations. But I want to know, “How are we doing? What’s happening in our relationship?” As soon as I say that, like, “How do you think we’re doing?” you have no words left. You might say, “I don’t know”; or I can just tell you look a deer in the headlights, because you don’t want to talk about it. Why is that?

Dave: Again, it goes back to I’m going to get defensive; because I’m going to guess you’re not thinking we’re doing as good as I think we’re doing. In some ways, we aren’t doing as good as I think we’re doing; because I want to live in a pretend world. I just don’t want to deal with the truth.

Ann: But that is a good point for us, as women. I was bad at this—I would only talk about how we’re doing when we weren’t doing well—so I should have said, “Man, I think we’re doing great.” That would have really bolstered you.

Dave: You do it now. You say it a lot now, like, “We’re doing well. You’re doing a great job; I feel loved.” That affirming a man brings life to a man, and we do better. If we think we’re doing good, we’re going to do even better. If we think we’re going to do bad, we tend—

Ann: You avoid the conversation.

Dave: —to get mad and angry; or we withdraw away, and we pull away and do less.

I had to learn—I mean, affection is a biggie—but conversation goes with the third one, which is honesty and openness. It’s like you’re saying: “When we do talk, let’s get real a little bit.” I want—and here’s what I think Harley was getting into—is a wife feels loved when her husband is honest and open only with her—

Ann: Yes, that’s important.

Dave: —which means I’m sharing my struggles/my fears. I’m just being—at the Weekend to Remember®, we call it Level 5 Communication, where it’s not superficial, Level 1—Level 5 is I’m sharing my heart with you, and no other woman gets that.

Ann: That—

Dave: It’s off limits/off bounds for another woman to get my heart.

Ann: I feel like it’s really easy, especially with young kids and busy jobs, that you don’t go to this Level 5 Communication, where you are sharing your fears/your insecurities.

Dave: Now, why does that make a wife feel loved?

Ann: Because feel connected to you. It feels like you trust us that you’re being vulnerable. When someone is vulnerable, that’s like the most precious—it’s intimacy—it’s true intimacy. It’s like a spiritual intimacy to me, even.

I remember when we were probably married—I don’t know—15 years; and you were doing all these big Pro-Challenge, we called it, with the athletes. You’d take Detroit Lions to schools. You do assemblies in these high schools; and then you would share a great message about Jesus, if you could, in the school—public schools—or about drug abuse. I remember this one time you came home from those—and you were usually really pumped up; but I could tell there was something off. And as most women can tell—we can tell when our guys are just a little off—so I kept saying, “What happened today? Did something happen? You don’t seem like yourself.”

Dave: Yes, it was that day where I had to be one of the athletes; because one of the players couldn’t go. I had to put on this Pro-Challenge tank top. I’m standing beside Chris Spielman, who was a linebacker; and you know, Chris Spielman in a tank top is a sight to be seen. He has muscles, and he is a weight room guy.

Ann: I mean, you were young; you looked great too.

Dave: Me in a tank top next to Chris Spielman was not that big a deal. I mean, it was pretty embarrassing. I’m standing there; and one of these teachers, who doesn’t think I can hear them—I mean, there is a gymnasium full of 1,500 kids, and all these teachers are standing beside us—we were under the basketball hoop, because they are going to introduce us to run out to center court. I hear this teacher, maybe ten feet away, turn to another teacher and say, “Hey, who is that little guy down there?” They knew all the players; they didn’t know why I was standing there.

Of course, Spielman hears it and goes, “Hey, dude, did you hear that? They think you are a little guy.” I just acted like I didn’t hear it. Then I hear the other teacher go, “Oh, he must be a kicker or something.” Spielman just laughed; you know.

Ann: Why did he laugh?

Dave: He knew I used to be a quarterback, and it probably was a blow to my ego. It was—again, nothing against kickers; they are awesome; they are incredible; some of my best friends are kickers with the Lions—but to think that I went from being a quarterback, who was All-Conference, to now I’m a kicker-type body—so when I came home that night, it was one of those moments—again, it wasn’t like the end of the world—but it was just like, “Wow; that is who I am now. I’m just this little, scrawny, skinny guy, who has no muscles when people look at me.”

So when you said, “How did the day go?”  I was like, “Oh, it was great.” You kept probing—

Ann: Well, yes, your demeanor was downcast.

Dave: Yes; tell them what happened; because I told you, “Well, you know, this teacher said this; and it sort of it hit me.”

Ann: Yes, you were telling me all of it; and you were super vulnerable.

Dave: I was honest and open.

Ann: Yes; you basically said, “I’m not that guy anymore. I feel like, ‘Who am I?’ I don’t even have anything to offer. These guys are amazing, and I’m just this old chaplain.”

Dave: And you said?

Ann: I said, “Dave Wilson; you look at me.” I remember I was strong; and I said, “Let me tell you who you are: you are a man of God.”

Dave: I’ve got to stop you, because I remember better than you.

Ann: Really?!

Dave: I remember the first thing you said was: “You’ve got a great body!”

Ann: I did, because I really believe that.

Dave: I think sometimes you can lie in your marriage, but I remember you saying that first thing.

Ann: Did I?

Dave: I smiled; and then you said, “Don’t you forget the most important thing about a man is who he is, not how he looks.” You said, “You are a man of God, who loves Jesus, who loves me, who is leading our boys to Christ. That’s what matters, and you are a good, good man.”

All I remember is sitting there, thinking, “Wow; I thought I was sort of giving you a gift because—

Ann: And it was.

Dave: —“I was being honest and open, and sharing sort of a weakness, or a fear I had, or an insecurity; and I got the gift.” I remember that night better than you, probably, because, like, “Wow; you spoke life into me.” You loved me, and you felt loved.

Ann: And you gave me an incredible gift by being vulnerable, by saying, “I don’t know if I have what it takes.”

Dave: Yes.

Ann: For [the] women listeners, when our men are vulnerable—and when they can share a weakness or what they really feel—it’s like we’ve been handed this precious gift. We need to be careful how we handle it—we don’t squash it; we don’t make fun of it; we don’t ridicule it; we don’t agree with the lies that they are believing—but we speak the truth. As you said earlier from Ephesians, when we are filled with God’s Spirit, we would say the things that Jesus would say back to our men. He would speak life to them, and we have the opportunity to do that to each other.

Dave: Yes; so here is what I would say to the guys: “Guys, you have a chance to love your wife as Christ loved the church. In fact, He has commanded us to do that. Now, you know what it looks like. Again, you have to ask your wife, ‘Does it look like affection, conversation, honesty and openness?—or does it look a little bit different? How is it nuanced?’”

Ann: “Does it look like getting the vacuum cleaner out and help me clean the house?”

Dave: Yes, that could be it too.

Ann: I was going to say, Dave: “Maybe, it would be great to listen to this podcast together.” Send it—if you’re a wife, and you don’t want to do this in a nagging way or a manipulative way—but say, “Hey, I listened to this today, and I’d love to talk about it—not saying that you are in trouble”—I want to say that—“but I think that this would be a great conversation.” Go out and be careful with how you word this.

I would say that same thing to the men: “I think it would be great to have this conversation.”

Bob: We have a link on our website at if you would like to send this program to a husband or a wife so that you can begin the process that Ann Wilson was just talking about. You can prime the pump for a healthy conversation about how both of you can do a better job of loving one another. You know, this does go both ways. In fact, in their book, Vertical Marriage, Dave and Ann Wilson talk about, not just what a wife longs for, but what a husband longs for in marriage.

In fact, I was thinking about couples reading through the book, Vertical Marriage, together. What a great assignment; what a way to strengthen your marriage. We’re making the book available to you this week if you can help with a donation to help advance the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Every dollar you donate to this ministry helps us reach more people, more often, with practical biblical help and hope for marriages/for families. We invest the money you send in the production and syndication costs for this program, getting it out in as many platforms/as many ways as possible.

We would love to say, “Thank you for your donation today,” by sending you the book, Vertical Marriage. If you already have the book, make a donation and pass a new copy on—to one of your kids, or to a neighbor; maybe, to somebody at church—somebody you know who would benefit from reading this book. Donate online at, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY; and we do look forward to hearing from you.

Now, you’ve heard me mentioning the small group resources that we have available, here, at FamilyLife and the fact that we have a special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners going on. Today is the last day that special offer is going to be available to you. If you’ve been looking for great resources for your small group on marriage or parenting—you’d like to save 25 percent off—you can use the promo code, “NEWYEAR2022,” and take advantage of the savings; but again, today is the last day that that code is going to be available. Check it out; go to for more information.

We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and we hope you can join us on Monday when we’re going to talk about what it is parents are doing to raise joy-filled kids. Marcus Warner and Chris Coursey will be here. I hope you can be back for that as well.

On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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